Racing dogs sold for blood? Fears grow as Macau’s track nears closure

Activists have already made one failed bid to adopt the greyhounds, whose blood – richer in red cells than other breeds’ – is sought after for transfusions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 8:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 9:13am

Greyhounds from the soon-to-close Macau canidrome are being adopted by people out to make a killing by selling their blood for transfusions, animal rights activists have claimed.

Fears for the future of 650 canines currently kennelled there have been further stoked after it emerged that government officials rejected an animal welfare group’s formal bid to adopt all of them.

The revelations – less than a month before the ramshackle racing facility is due to close – are set to spark renewed protests over the treatment of animals at Asia’s only dog track.

Albano Martins, president of the Society for the Protection of Animals (Anima), the only animal rights organisation in the former Portuguese enclave, criticised city officials for their handling of the closure and expressed “serious concerns” about the dogs’ welfare.

Martins said he was worried by an event on Sunday attended by more than 100 potential adopters from Macau, Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan.

“I really fear for the future of these dogs. According to my information, one vet in Macau got three greyhounds through middlemen for the purpose of using them for blood transfusions,” he said.

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“Another woman wanted to adopt dogs so she could sell them in her pet shop. We were told by the owners of the canidrome that they would ensure the animals went to adopters who had the best interests of the dogs at heart, but this is hard to believe given what we have seen.”

Martins said a formal bid by his group to adopt all 650 dogs – and be given use of the current facilities at the canidrome – was rejected in a letter from the government he received on Monday. His group is planning a protest for Wednesday, which will include the submission of individual adoption applications for all 650 dogs.

Allegations of blood transfusion abuse involving greyhounds have surfaced around the world in recent years. Greyhound blood is seen as particularly lucrative for transfusions because the dogs have higher levels of red blood cells than other breeds.

The canidrome is operated by the Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome Company, which is owned and controlled by Angela Leong On-kei, a lawmaker in the Macau Legislative Assembly and the fourth wife of retired casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun.

Leong, who is also managing director of casino operator SJM Holdings and has an estimated personal net worth of US$4.1 billion, has dismissed the activists’ concerns over the well-being of the dogs as a “smear”.

Neither the canidrome nor the Macau government could be contacted for comment on the latest allegations.

The track first opened in 1931 and closed during the second world war, only resuming races in 1965. The relaunch of dog racing was part of an early effort to turn Macau into a Western-style gambling hub.

Initially, the push worked. But as Macau developed into the world’s most cash-rich gaming destination, overtaking Las Vegas, the dog track’s fortunes tumbled, both financially and reputationally.